Parents Helping Parents of Wyoming State Parenting Center

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Summer Fun!

Amy Skalicky- F2F Outreach in Cheyenne

It’s August, and it seems like school just ended for the summer last week.  Where did the summer go? Perhaps the late winter-like weather delayed that summer-fun feeling. Playing outside later, flip-flops, sunscreen, Saturday night racing, mosquito bites, painted toenails, hiking, fishing, swimming, camping—soon to be replaced by school supplies, teacher meetings, assemblies, earlier bedtimes, earlier rise-and-shine times, check-ups, vaccinations, new clothes, schedules, IEP’s and homework.  

Don’t get me wrong.  My daughter enjoys school and I enjoy that part of the journey with her.  But there is a joyful freedom that comes with summertime, a freedom to enjoy the outdoors more, freedom to play more, and freedom to be who they really are.  I learn the most about Peanut when I am playing badminton with her, picking out the stars and planets on GoogleSky, or just sitting on the front steps watching her fly by with her friends on their scooters.    I am amazed, as I always am, at how much she has changed in the few short months since school ended–taller, more self-sufficient, and more aware.  Summer fun brings summer growth.

Summer is also a good time to regroup and recharge for a fresh start in August.  Many children, my daughter included, develop a before-school anxiety, and this is a good time to reassure them and plan for the successful start of the next grade.  Teachers are busy with their own preparations for school, but a quick meet-the-teacher before that first day could alleviate some apprehension and allow any special needs to be discussed before the first-day rush.  EpiPens, medications, diabetes supplies and what-you-need-to-know-about-my-child information for the school should be ready before school starts.   Starting now on a little earlier bedtime and earlier waking time can make the first day a bit easier as well.   In addition, it is a good time to set up the homework area, making sure it is stocked with needed items—pencils, crayons, laptop, paper, books, glue, and favorite snack food. 

The bathing suits, camping supplies and sandbox toys are on clearance, making way for the crayons, notebooks and locker accessories that have already invaded store shelves.  School registration information, supply lists and open house schedules once again adorn my refrigerator, and my daughter giggles that this year she and I both have homework, so we should do it together. I am then informed that I cannot go outside to play until it’s done.  Thanks, Peanut.  Glad you’ve been listening.

But I am not letting go of summer just yet.  There is plenty yet to do and time left to do it.  Perhaps it’s time for a new end-of-summer ritual.   This year my daughter has some things she wants to put into a summer scrapbook.   As for me, I am going cling to the warm sunshine, sidewalk chalk, giggling kids in my yard and muddy prints tiptoeing through my kitchen.

The Role of an Advocate

 

For me, the past year has given me many different definitions to the answer,

Julie Heil- PHP Outreach Coordinator located in Buffalo

“What is an advocate.” What I found to be most important is that the answer changes depending on who or what you are advocating for. However, the underlying question always remains true, that is, what is the unmet need and how can I help facilitate the solution?

 

Sometimes advocating for families and children involves an emotional reaction; anger, frustration, discontent, fatigue. I have found disconnecting myself from the emotion the hardest part of being an effective advocate. The counselor in me wants to do just that, counsel, however that is not our role.

I have made a list of what I believe to be the most important skills in being an advocate:

 

  1. Be a listener- listen for the details and filter out the emotion
  2. Take notes and be organized. This will assist you in helping the family you are working with to understand the nuances in the paperwork, plan, and conversation.
  3. Understand the laws and systems you are dealing with. Don’t speak up until you KNOW that what you are saying is fact. If you misspeak, then you lose the power you have as an advocate.
  4. Be a strong, assertive communicator.
  5. Build relationships with the people that work in your system. Knowing who to deal with and who your allies are is worth so much.
  6. Be respectful of the client and their needs. Don’t pass judgment and remember everyone needs a hand from time to time.

What we are really doing as advocates is demonstrating to our clients the skills they will need to be more effective the next time the encounter a problem. Remembering this is essential! When teaching by example, we are not rescuing or giving the solution.

You Can’t Choose Their Friends

Juanita Bybee- PHP Office Manager

I have an 8 year old girl who is going into the 3rd grade this year. We have had several conversations about her peers at school. She struggles like all children with friendships at school and the occasional argument that comes up. She also has a cousin, close to her age that she plays with regularly and seems to be in competition with at all times. 

To be honest I have never thought about choosing her friends. I occasionally go to school and sit with her at lunch to see how she interacts with her peers and observe the other children in her class. I did ask her teacher how she gets along with others and if there was any peers that she struggles more with.  She seemed to be chatty with one particular classmate. It got to the point that I had to talk with her about that the number one reason that she is at school is the get an education and that friendships are second to that. Her teacher decided to move them apart and put them in opposite corners of the room so they could concentrate better and pay attention to the lesson instead of talking. 

I don’t want to choose her friends. I have to admit that when I was younger, I did the opposite of what I was told (shocker right), so I figure that the most important thing for me is that she has fulfilling friendships that are healthy. Children are in constant development and are learning at every turn.  I want to make sure that if there is an issue such as bullying or teasing that my child feels that she can come to me and talk.  Kids can be cruel and feeling can easily be hurt. I want to be there for her to try to talk through any problems such as nobody wants to play with me or about why someone has treated her in such a way. The teacher might not always have time to help her through those times and I want to know what is going on with my child. This will always be an ongoing issue.

 I think that healthy self- esteem and the ability to stand up for herself are important in the way she interacts with others. If she is confident with herself, then she can feel comfortable articulating her needs to others and can ask for help if needed.

I think that it is important to keep in touch with her teacher as well.  Her teacher observes her interactions with her peers and can tell if there is an issue that might need extra attention. Parents shouldn’t wait until Parent-Teacher conferences to come around to have a conversation with their child’s teacher or visa- versa. I want to keep the line of communication open with my child’s teacher. I like to hear the good because there is always plenty of the bad.

The best thing that I can do as a parent is to be involved in my child’s life. My child needs to know that she is the most important thing to me and we can work together to overcome anything!

Choosing the “Right” Friends

Do you have a child who complains that he doesn’t have friends or a child that picks friends that you don’t approve of?  How can you help them make better choices?

First, understand your child.  We are all different in unique ways.  You can’t make a square peg fit in a round hole.  Some children are quiet and passive while others are active and assertive.

Some suggestions:

1)      Allow your children to choose their own friends.  (They will anyway)

2)      If your child chooses a friend you don’t like, invite that child into your home often and hope that the love and values you practice will be beneficial to him or her.

3)      If you are afraid a friend you don’t approve of will have a negative influence on your child, focus on being a positive influence through a good relationship with your child.

4)      Don’t worry about whether your child has the right number of friends. 

Planning ahead to prevent future problems

1)       Help children who have difficulty making friends by exposing them to many opportunities, such as trips to the park, Scouts or other youth groups.

2)        Go along with your child’s wishes about clothing styles so he won’t be embarrassed about not fitting in.

3)      Make your home a place where kids love to come because they experience unconditional love, safe and respectful rules, and plenty of fun, child-oriented activities.

Children can learn that their parents are their best friends because they love them unconditionally, value their uniqueness, and have faith in them to choose friends that are right for them.

If your child is consistently choosing friends you do not approve of, look at your relationship with your child.  Are you being too controlling, inviting your child to prove you can’t control everything?  Is your child feeling hurt by your criticism and lack of faith in her and trying to hurt back by choosing friends you don’t like?  Have faith in your children and honor who they are.  Try to make the people your children choose as friends welcome at your home, even if they are not the friends you would choose.  Your children may be making decisions about friends based on how you treat your friends.  Are you acting how you would like your children to act?

The Best Teacher Ever….

Julie Heil- PHP Outreach Coordinator located in Buffalo

The best teacher I every had-

That’s an easy one- the best teacher I ever had was my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Ellis. Somehow she knew that I needed a little extra nurturing that year. She invited me to spend a lot of time with her after school, we would clean off the desks, organize the bookshelves, talk about life and friends, movies and books. I had a sick sister, came from a single parent home and really needed the extra attention that Mrs. Ellis gave me.

 I’m sure she was a great teacher in many other ways too.  Because of the huge Wyoming quilt our class made, I canstill remember all the Wyoming counties and their county seats  However, the subjects she taught and how she taught them are not what stayed with me. What stands out the most, is how she made me feel; safe, special and most of all, worthy of her time. I’m sure this experience is what led me want to be a teacher myself. Mrs. Ellis’s influence was one of the greatest gifts. I learned that every child may need a little extra scoop of attention from time to time and that sometimes the smallest kind gesture can make a world of difference.

Phonetic What…

Deb Allender, F2F Outreach based in Casper

Early Literacy is a tool we can give our children that will help shape  their futures in a million ways. It doesnt cost a million dollars, it  just takes moments of our time to read to them, to let them read to us,  to encourage their imaginations, to hone their guessing skills. Early  literacy doesn’t just have to be flashcards and phonetic drills. It  can, and should, be encorperated into every aspect of life. Reading is  something every family can do together…..even if it is the side of the  mac and cheese box while cooking dinner. It is a practical skill that  once we give our children, can not be taken away. Once a child learns to  read they have worlds opened up for them. They can use reading to learn  and grow, they can use it to escape and imagine, they can use it to  laugh and question.  If we instill in our young children a true passion  for literacy we are really giving them the world-any part of it they  wish to explore.

Children will learn to love reading if the adults they are around model  a love of reading. And I know I am as guilty as the next tired single  mom, who just doesn’t have time to sit down and read for fun anymore. 

And I will admit I sometimes go for the book with just a few more  pictures and a few less words, but you know what?  It’s still a book,  and we can still look for clues in the illustrations and make  predictions before we turn the page and we can read it with silly  voices- some of my boys favorties things about how I read. We can find  a way to enjoy the moments we do have, build it into the routine,  strengthen learning in unconventional ways, and really install that  passion in our children.

I often worry that I am not doing enough for my children, but the  reality is I am doing the best that I know how to do. And that is really all any of us can do as parents. So don’t beat yourself up for the  stories you didnt read last night, just take a breath and read a short one tonight.

Cell Phone Nemesis

The world of instant communication has brought us a lot of advantages. We can reach across the whole world in a matter of seconds. It has also brought with it a host of problems. Call me old fashioned but why are six year olds carrying around cell phones? There is a place, a reason, and time for everything and school is not the place, reason, or time for cell phone use. I have heard some of the arguments that the children would be able to dial someone in an emergency.  More times than not, small children freeze during a crisis. There should be a teacher in every class room and monitors in the hall.  If there is an emergency they can call for help. I do believe it would be alright for high school age students to keep them in their lockers, or cars where they could access their phones during lunch time. I cannot see how a student could possibly be learning in class while holding a cell phone on their lap texting. We know it is very dangerous to try and drive while on the cell phone. It is also dangerous for a lot of children that are continually mocked teased and harassed through cell phones. They make an excellent tool for bullies.  I overheard a girl in the hall of the high school who was so upset because she had forgotten her cell phone. I thought she was going to cry.  I could not help but wonder, would she be that upset if she had misplaced a good book she was reading, or a school report?  I would love to see a nationwide ban on cell phone use by students in public schools. What about all of you?

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